The Socio-Economic Sustainability of Refugee Return: Insights from Burundi

Sonja Fransen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Web of Science)


This paper studies the socio-economic sustainability of refugee return in Burundi using household and community data collected from 1,500 households. Socio-economic sustainability is studied using a wider view that not only compares return households with non-return households but also focuses on the effects of return on entire communities. Sustainability is operationalised as a multidimensional concept that includes both objective and subjective indicators. The results reveal that from a household perspective and from a community perspective, the sustainability of return in Burundi can be questioned. Return households are less likely to own agricultural land, which is one of the most important assets in Burundi. Households with second-generation returnees the children of former refugees who were born abroad - also report worse living conditions. Community analyses show that food insecurity is higher in communities with more first-generation returnees, and in communities with more second-generation returnees, all households (return and non-return) have lower living conditions, lower subjective wealth, and experienced more negative changes in wealth in recent years. These findings provide support for studying sustainability from a wider view that incorporates both household and community perspectives, together with a multidimensional approach that includes multiple indicators. The results also show that returnees are not a uniform group by highlighting the additional challenges confronted by second-generation returnees in Burundi.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPopulation Space and Place
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

JEL classifications

  • r23 - "Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics: Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population; Neighborhood Characteristics"
  • f22 - International Migration
  • o15 - "Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration"


  • refugee return
  • socio-economic sustainability
  • peace and post-conflict reconstruction
  • Burundi

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